Andrew Overall's veteran story

Andrew John William 'Andy' Overall was born in Adelaide in 1946. He moved with his family to Canberra in 1958 after his father, architect Sir John Overall CBE MC Bar, was appointed the first commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC). John was a decorated Army veteran of the Western Desert Campaign in World War II.

Andrew attended Canberra Grammar School and completed his leaving certificate in 1963. At the time, Australia was getting more involved in the Vietnam War. Then he was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Military College, Duntroon. He graduated in 1967 and elected to join the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery.

Andrew served a tour of Vietnam from February 1969 to February 1970. He was assigned to the Detachment, 131 Divisional Locating Battery in the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery.

Andrew returned to Australia with the rank of Lieutenant. Andrew married Diane Cassidy in 1971 and he served in the Army for over 20 years. They finally settled in Canberra.

Vietnam veteran

Transcripts

Early schooling and father's influence

I was born in Adelaide. My father was an architect there. Subsequently, when I was about age five, he became the chief Commonwealth architect, which was in those days based in Melbourne. So, we moved to Melbourne. Some of my schooling was in Melbourne and then he got a job in Canberra as the inaugural commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission. 

So, we moved to Canberra in 1958. I did my secondary schooling at Canberra Grammar School and was at sixes and sevens in terms of what I wanted to do afterwards. My real interests were more in the natural sciences-side of things. My father, who had served during the Second World War and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel – and, I might add, headed up the First Parachute Battalion, when it was established during the Second World War – had suggested to me, partly because of his experience in the military and also because the Royal Military College, Duntroon, happened to be here, in Canberra, that I might like to consider a military career. 

So, I applied for a scholarship, two years prior to leaving school, and was awarded a scholarship and went to the Royal Military College there and subsequently graduated in the class of 1967.

Bastardisation at Duntroon

At school I did not excel at mathematics. My interest was more, as I mentioned, in the earth sciences and things like that – so, biology and geology and things like that. As I touched on earlier, it was suggested to my parents by those who conducted the aptitude tests about what a particular individual might be appropriate for, in terms of a career, that surveying was not one of those! 

At Duntroon, because of my great achievements and an interest in the artistic side of things, I was therefore branded an artist, and I went through the Arts course. There was a science and engineering stream as well. We "artists", if I can use that expression, had a relatively easily easy time academically at Duntroon. We were supposed to have graduated with degrees. 

Our course was intended to be the first course that did graduate with degrees. That didn't eventuate because the nature of the course that we undertook was not considered by the associated university – the University of New South Wales – as being sufficiently rigorous and broad as to justify the granting of a degree. So, some of us subsequently undertook further studies to obtain that degree. 

Others obviously didn't. I didn't see any great point in doing so within the military environment. Duntroon was initially quite a demanding environment because in those days bastardisation was well and truly active. It was seen by the senior students, who clearly had gone through the same process themselves, as a means of weeding out those who were not really suited to remain in the military. 

In hindsight, they had no right to take on that role – that is, to apply bastardisation in the form in which it was, as a means of weeding out. It wasn't their function to do so. And I think it was extraordinarily poor form on the part of management at Duntroon – the senior officers who were on the staff – to allow this to occur. 

They clearly knew it was happening. There's absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind. They would have gone through it themselves. They closed a blind eye to it. Certainly they condoned it and there was no attempt whatsoever to suppress it. It's only when it became public, in subsequent years, that people realised they had better do something about it. 

So, in the initial stages, as a going into what we called fourth class – it's a sort of reversed thing, if you like. You go to fourth class first, and then third class, and then second class and first class. It's a four year course. We were subjected to all sorts of indignities and deprivations. That was a bonding thing for us in that class. We'd gone through the same adversity, if you like. 

We still talk about that when we get together, socially, and laugh about it. You can do that, in hindsight. At the time we weren't necessarily laughing. Those who were in the academic stream, like myself, had a relatively easy time of it, academically, because it seemed like every second period was a study period in your own room. We were the envy of the science and engineering stream. Every single period was full on for them. Why that should have been the case, someone else needs to explain. That might explain why we didn't get a degree! But then again, the science and engineering people didn't get a degree either.

Physical demands and pressure at Duntroon

At Duntroon, yes, it was physically demanding. Obviously, we needed to be fit. We had heaps of physical activities applied on us every single day. It was a pressured environment in terms of being able to turn up on time to every single lesson. They were only ten minutes between, and you might have to be dressed in totally different clothing between lessons, and you somehow had to get back to your room, get changed, and then get to another location at the right time, correctly dressed. 

Otherwise you got yourself an extra drill, which meant getting up very early in the morning and being marched around on the parade ground, well before breakfast. We got up anyway. Reveille was at quarter past six every morning, rain, hail or shine. We got paid $14 a fortnight – mind you, $14 went a bit further than it does nowadays! 

But Duntroon, and Canberra, in those days was pretty isolated. I was raised in Canberra. There was no lake at the time. We lived in the south side of Canberra and, if it rained, you couldn't get across to the other side of Canberra, which was Civic, only a few kilometres away, because there was no bridge. There was a fjord across the river and if it flooded you had to go via Queanbeyan. 

The lake was actually built whilst we were at Duntroon and it filled very, very quickly. But there was very little social life, Canberra being very small at the time and indeed it was very difficult to partake in any social life because it was very difficult to get outside of Duntroon. That didn't mean that people didn't do so, and go absent without leave to enjoy a little bit of social life, such as it was, on a Saturday night by just walking through the bush to Civic, for instance. 

What was in Civic that attracted them I've no idea! It became a little easier in the later years at Duntroon when you realised that you were a reasonably competent individual, that you were achieving the expectations that were placed on you, and that you had a fair degree of confidence that you might graduate. 

Our class, if my memory serves me correctly, had eighty-eight people march in. The attrition was about fifty per cent. So, there were forty-seven or something like that who graduated. The majority of those who didn't graduate had departed in in the first year and the majority of those were due to academic reasons. 

There were some that could not put up with the bastardisation and the general pressure that was applied to them, and they ended up leaving pretty early in the piece – in the first year. Of my particular Duntroon class, we still try to get together with those who didn't graduate as a social thing because, as I say, it was a shared experience and it doesn't matter to us whether you graduated or not. These people have gone through the same experiences, particularly in that adverse period, during the first year.

4. Graduation from Duntroon

I graduated in 1967. We were all given the opportunity to choose which corps we wished to graduate into. I was very grateful for that. I chose artillery because I saw it that it's one of what's considered to be the arms – armour, artillery, signals, survey – and engineers are the people who are actually out in the field, for the most part, actually taking part in combat environments or certainly exposed to potential combat. 

Artillery gave me the ability to be out in the field, but also it just appealed to me. To be able to engage the enemy, at long range, with guns and to utilise your brainpower to be able to achieve that effect on the ground. There's quite a bit of calculation involved in delivering fire accurately on the ground with artillery. 

It's not just a question of knowing where you are, the range to the target, and the direction of the target, and then firing it. There's all sorts of things that have to be taken into account. I mentioned the meteorological effect on artillery rounds. There's also the effect of the Earth's rotation. For guns that can fire at long range, it's fired into the air, it's left the earth's surface, obviously, and the earth has rotated some distance before the round gets to impact – and that's something needs to be taken into account. 

If you are firing what's called a "danger close mission", where you are firing at enemy that are very close to your own troops, you have to be very careful with the "beaten zone" of the guns. Obviously, when the guns fire at the ground they will form a pattern of shot on the ground, which is an ellipse. You need to take account of the direction in which the guns are firing, how close they are firing to your own troops, the range at which they're firing, the angle of fire that they're firing at, the charge at which they're firing at – all of those things are important. 

The wear of every individual gun is important. That has to be taken into account when determining what settings you put on that gun – the wear of the barrel. The temperature of the charge at the time of firing. The weight of that particular projectile is important to know. That affects it – none of these projectiles are exactly the same weight. They all have a slight variation in weight. 

The muzzle velocity of that particular gun, the weight of the charge, the particular charge that's being used – if there are different charges involved, depending on the range at which you are firing – whether you're trying to fire over the top of a mountain and land in a valley behind it: all of those are factors to be taken into account.

Specialised artillery training

It was virtually inevitable that we would be going to Vietnam. Yes, it was very much in full swing and indeed it was building up in the course of our studies at Duntroon. We all believe that within twelve months just about all of us would be in Vietnam because we were expanding our involvement in that conflict. 

That's the way it turned out for me. I spent my first twelve months after graduating from Duntroon attending a number of specialised training courses in artillery, which is the corps into which I graduated, and – rightly or wrongly – the army decided to put me into what was called Locating Artillery. Now, Locating Artillery was involved with… Essentially, it had a number of sub-elements, if you like. 

One of its principal tasks was to provide to Artillery Intelligence the location of enemy guns, rockets, mortars – anything that utilised indirect fire to engage our troops. The other function that Locating Artillery provided was to actually tell our own guns where they were on the Earth's surface with a degree of accuracy which would ensure that the safety of our own troops was not compromised by a mis-location of our guns, or a mis-orientation of those guns when it came time for them to fire. 

So, the sorts of things that Locating Artillery undertook, in terms of providing information to Artillery Intelligence on the location of enemy guns, weapons, rockets, and so on, involved techniques such as sound ranging – a technique which had been pretty well honed during the First World War. Because of technology improvements, we were also able to utilise radars and we were equipped with those. 

They were, in those days, fairly basic radars, I guess. But they were able to track incoming rounds and, by calculating back along the trajectory, determine the point of fire – or, calculating further forward, the point of impact, if that information was valuable to us. In the case of sound ranging, the technique involved the placement of microphones on the ground, in various arrays depending upon the terrain, the nature of the conflict, and the disposition of the enemy (as it was known), and determining the difference in time of the arrival of sound at two microphones – a pair of them, if you like. 

Much like our human ears can do (we can determine the direction of sound coming either to our right or to our left with just a fairly rough approximation because of the time difference between it striking, for example, your right ear and your left ear). With sound ranging, because of these microphones being very accurately positioned and fairly widely spaced, and a trace of those sounds arriving at the various microphones on a film, you could determine with a number of pairs of microphones where that sound had emanated from. That proved to be quite useful, certainly during the First World War, certainly during the Second World War, and, for us to a lesser extent, nevertheless still useful in Vietnam.

Becoming a surveyor

In the latter stages of schooling – in those days at least – there was a test that every student was required to undergo. This was a sort of an aptitude test, the intent of which was to determine as best as possible, I suppose, the sorts of activities that that individual might be suited for in terms of employment or a career in later years. 

One of the things, as the outcome of that test that I undertook, that was suggested to my parents was that under no circumstances should I be considered as suitable for employment as a surveyor. Now, oddly enough, the Army – which of course wasn't necessarily aware of that particular thing – chose to turn me into a surveyor. And that's indeed what I became. 

That was my main function when I ended up in Vietnam. So, I graduated in 1967, as I mentioned, had a year on-and-off of courses at the School of Artillery at North Head. I also served within 131 Divisional Locating Battery, which is the regular army unit that we had in the Army then, which did provide those locating artillery capabilities to the rest of the service. Then I got posted to Vietnam as a reinforcement.

Composite Regiment

I went there [to Vietnam] as part of the detachment of 131 Divisional Locating Battery. Now, a divisional locating battery is by its very name intended to support an entire division. We did not have an entire division in Vietnam. We had what's called a taskforce. The taskforce was essentially, with a little bit of augmentation, one third of a division. 

So, a detachment of our divisional locating battery was sent to Vietnam. Rather than try and replace those people who formed that detachment on an annual basis, the need for continuity in knowledge of what was going on in that particular conflict zone, and the techniques and specialties that were required to address the requirements there, necessitated that replacements be on an individual basis. 

So, it was a staggered arrangement. When I arrived there, I replaced another officer, but there were non-commissioned officers and soldiers there who had already been serving there for some time, who knew the environment, and were therefore able to provide that degree of continuity that was essential to us in order for us to be able to continue to conduct those services in that conflict effectively.

When I marched out, I did those technical courses that I described, and then I marched into 19 Composite Regiment, as it was called. It was called Composite because it had a medium battery, it had a field battery, and it had the divisional locating battery in it. So, it was comprised of a number of disparate elements. It had been formed in part – particularly the field battery part of it – from the remnants of those who had already gone to Vietnam. … I have to say, the remnants were not impressive. 

We had officers and soldiers there who wisely did not go to Vietnam. And, for me, it was a shock to see the poor quality of what was left behind. Obviously, those officers didn't progress very far in the military – and nor should they have done. But I found it very disappointing, having been through all of the training at Duntroon and seen the level at which the bar was being set, in terms of how officers should perform, how they should manage their troops, and how they should conduct their operations, to suddenly be confronted with people who, frankly, I regarded as incompetent. 

Wisely, as I say, they didn't go to Vietnam, where they would have risked the lives of their own troops, had they done so. So, in a sense, it was comforting to see that the system recognised deficiencies and made adjustments appropriate to the circumstances.

Soldier pranks

As I left Australia and went to Vietnam, obviously I was suddenly confronted with a whole different bunch of people, none of whom I knew or who I'd had met before. They were already deployed in Vietnam when I joined the battery here in Australia. Those guys in the detachment in Vietnam had been serving there for some time. 

And, I might say, on the first day, they thought, Well, here's a junior officer who's just arrived. He's wet behind the ears. He's got absolutely no idea of this environment. Let's take advantage of him. So, they said: "Look, sir, tonight there's the Hoa Long hop on. Would you like to go?" Now, Hoa Long was a little village to the south of Nui Dat. It wasn't a village that you were ordinarily allowed to go to at all – and why would you want to, anyway? 

But they were trying to lead me to believe that there was some kind of dance on, that night, and we could all go to the Hoa Long hop. I said, "I'm sorry, and I'm not really interested in that." And I genuinely wasn't interested going to the Hoa Long hop. I'd just arrived in Vietnam and I was pretty bloody tired. It didn't take me too long to realise that they were just having me on, on this one. 

And they said, "Alright, if you don't want to go to the Hoa Long hop, how about the Dapto [?] Dogs?" Now, that was a village to the East, probably about fifteen kilometres away, maybe even further – probably further. Of course, what they were trying to suggest was that there was greyhound racing going on, somewhere over in the east, and would I like to go to the greyhound racing? Well, again, I declined. 

To this day, greyhound racing doesn't do a thing for me. There was no greyhound racing and never would be. But these were the sort of things that the soldiers felt that they could try on junior officers. I found that endearing – that they felt that they could ever have a try, in that regard. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we all got along very well. 

As a degree of bonding in a situation like that, it's hard for people outside of that environment to comprehend. There's a degree of reliance that we all develop, in that sort of environment, on each other. And we get to know each other so well, our strengths and weaknesses, and the degree of trust that you can place in those people – that I haven't been able to duplicate elsewhere. 

And I think it's reciprocated by the soldiers upwards, as well. They get to understand their officer. They recognise the strengths and weaknesses there. And, if they're decent people – and mine were – they will make accommodations to allow for that. None of them have actually told me where I fell down, but I'm sure I did in places. And, as a young officer, I remember learning things about man management that have stood me in good stead ever since, including in private – outside of service life, in a civilian life. It's benefited me and I'm sure it's benefited others who have been in the same situation.

Accommodation conditions at Nui Dat

We lived in officer lines. There was no barricade between those and the unit lines where the other ranks were living. We had our own tent which had sandbags around it. The sandbags were not to protect us from our own troops, but would protect us from any incoming fire – you know, shrapnel and stuff like that. Those tents were separated from each other by about twenty to thirty metres. 

They were, obviously, very open. You slept under an insect mesh screen just around your bed. There was all sorts of wildlife around: mongeese and cobras and stuff like that. There were even cats that had somehow been introduced. I remember being surprised one night, when I was walking back after finishing a shift at midnight, to have a cat run up top of me and sit on my head because it was being chased by another cat. 

It's not something you necessarily expect at night! The soldiers lived in lines where they had their own bunks in large tents. The actual unit area was only about 150 metres away from the officer lines. Being attached to 12 Field Regiment at the time, our detachment of 131 Divisional Locating Battery was, I believe, under command. 

That's the term that's used in the military for when you're been placed under the control and command of another unit. That was appropriate. It's more of an administrative thing, to provide you with an officer's mess, for example, accommodation, and administrative support, as required. Where we conducted our sound ranging, our command post we had sunk underground and put corrugated steel roofing over the top, along with sandbags. 

The idea of that was that the roofing, sitting over the top of another layer, would cause the detonation of any incoming round, and therefore be less likely to penetrate further down. Basically it was a buffer zone, an air buffer zone, created between the two. It was well set up. We had lights down there, of course. We had all our plotting boards and sound ranging equipment down there, and our communications equipment and radios, etc. 

It was so well set up that the task force commander came around with a number of his staff officers at one stage and expressed such pleasure with it that he said, "We could take over this in the event that our task force headquarters accommodation somehow or other gets damaged. This will be our first port of call." Well, we weren't too impressed with that because we had our own job and we'd done our own work to get this thing produced to meet our needs.

Communication with home

Home communication was by mail. I don't know whether you could phone home. I don't think you could. I don't think there was that – maybe there was the capability. I didn't feel any need to do so. It was aerograms. Now, most people nowadays don't know what aerograms are. 

They're just basically a sheet of paper that can be folded into three, and the name and address are put on one side. It's very lightweight stuff. You could write on one side of it, and you learned to write very, very small.

Cheap tax free living

In Vietnam everything was tax free. There was the ability to buy things like cigarettes and alcohol and other stuff all tax free. In retrospect, it probably wasn't a particularly good idea to make alcohol and cigarettes and the like so readily available. But, in those days, cigarettes were, for example, included in ration packs. That was a legacy, I think, of the First and Second World Wars, where it was sort of seen as a necessity for some people. 

Anyway, we had access to the American PX, or Post Exchange system, which enabled us to buy stuff via the American system really quite cheaply. There was a lot of interest. People were buying good quality cameras, for instance, which otherwise would have been prohibitive on the sort of pay we were getting. People were buying decent hi-fi gear and shipping it back to Australia because they wouldn't have been able to afford it and otherwise. 

Our pay was tax free. Our pay wasn't much. I think in the two years I managed to save – and I didn't have much in the way of expenditure over there – about $1,700. That was saving, basically, most of your pay and that enabled me in return to buy a brand new Datsun 1600 sedan. It was a pretty small box when I look back on it, but that's what you expected. 

You didn't know otherwise. You didn't have any higher expectations. The fact that it was tax free money, and you could actually end up buying a car, if that was your choice, on return to Australia – we thought we were pretty well set up! Looking back on it, it wasn't so much the case. Looking back on the sort of pay we got, and comparing it with what people get paid, it's quite amazing the differential. 

Yes, you take into account inflation, but you see officers driving around now in BMWs and stuff like that. That's the expectation. For us, you might be lucky to have had a second hand Holden or something if you wanted a larger car. Things have changed – and, obviously, for the better in that regard.

Vung Tau and recreational leave

Vung Tau was the administrative port into which all of our goods and things arrived – our ammunition, our equipment, our replacement vehicles, and whatever else might be. It was to our south. I got down there a couple of times, mostly through work. It was a requirement to do some survey work down that way so that we could carry survey further forward. 

We did get R&C – that's rest and convalescence. I think that's what R&C stood for. That was for a day or two, in Vung Tau. I took advantage of that once. Vung Tau has substantially changed since then, I'm sure. I've actually seen some photographs and yes, it clearly has. But it was just a nice town. It was a port. It had some nice facilities. I spent, as I say, just two days there – one overnight or something like that. 

There was the opportunity for things like water skiing and stuff down there. I didn't avail myself of that. Some did. So, there were some facilities provided down there. I don't think I ever went into the Peter Badcoe Club at all. I'd heard of it, but I didn't go in there at all. I didn't feel the need. I wanted to, while I was there, experience some of the culture of the South Vietnamese. 

So, I tended to wander around the shops or the little places where they were selling stuff, such as they were. When I was interacting with the South Vietnamese military, I was more interested in how they lived and ate than how they conducted their operations. That was just that was my interest, I think. I just wanted to learn more about the culture, how they thought, what they thought of their government, what they thought of the situation they were in, what they thought of the outcome. 

It was clear to me, anyway, at that stage, that this was an unwinnable war. Absolutely clear to me. The North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong had so much more to gain than what we had to lose, and that says volumes in terms of what the outcome was going to be. They were going to stay there forever. There is no way we Westerners were going to stay there forever. 

And so it proved, of course. For R&R – which was five days – I chose to go to Bangkok. Obviously, those who were married or who were really feeling the separation from family may well have chosen to go back to Australia. I think there were some – I'm pretty sure there would have been some – who chose to go to other locations, such as Taiwan, which I think was on offer, or maybe Hong Kong. I don't know. 

They may well have brought their partners up to have a five days with them. That seemed to me a very short period of time to be able to bring your partner up, if you could indeed afford to do so. So, I went to Bangkok and I shared a room with an American warrant officer who was a helicopter pilot. Now, in our system, all helicopter and aircraft pilots are officers – commissioned officers. 

But, in the American system, they will have both commissioned officers and warrant officers as pilots. This guy was a really decent, nice fellow. I spent the time there, again, trying to interact more with the community than anything else. I remember I spent a whole day with a Buddhist priest, a young Buddhist priest, and that was very, interesting indeed. 

I wish I'd kept in touch with the guy because he was a really interesting fellow. You know – try and understand why it is that someone's going to commit themselves like that to a life – and, well, I think for the most part, it would be for them for life – of asceticism and receiving handouts basically from the population and studying their particular religion so intensely, as they do. Yet he was a very aware individual. He knew what was going on in the world. And, I just it very, very interesting. I'm hoping he found it interesting to talk to the likes of me, too.

Surveying and sound ranging In Vietnam

I arrived in February of 1969, and departed exactly twelve months later. During that time, I had three roles – initially, anyway. One was to be the provider, along with the guys that I had underneath me, of course, of all the survey requirements in the Phuoc Tuy province, the province that we had responsibility for – not only to our own artillery, but there was also South Vietnamese artillery deployed in the province, there was American artillery deployed in the province – not much of it, but some. 

They had a 155 millimetre battery very closely deployed to the base where we were located at Nui Dat. When I say ‘closely', they were obviously in Nui Dat, but they were very closely deployed to where we had our detachment's accommodation. The second function I had, in terms of supporting our artillery, was to provide the sound ranging capability. 

So, we ran the sound ranging base – essentially only at night, though, because it was really only at night that the enemy felt it had any capability to deliver indirect fire to Nui Dat or any place indeed where Australian forces might have been operating at the time. That was because of the nature of the conflict. During the day, we had essential control mainly because we had control of the air, if you like. 

At night-time, obviously, air cover was far less effective in terms of both observation and the delivery of munitions. And so, at night, the North Vietnamese Army, or the Vietcong, who was supporting them, felt that they had a higher degree of ability to move around and deliver their form of conflict. So, at night we operated the sound ranging base. 

If my memory serves me correctly, we started operating that at six o'clock at night and went through to six o'clock in the morning. That's a twelve hour shift. Obviously, twelve hour shift is too long when you've got a day function to perform as well. And so, we had two shifts at night: one through to midnight and one through to six o'clock in the morning. And that shift would involve, if my memory serves me correctly, about five people. 

There'd be someone who would be running it – either myself or one of my warrant officers – and maybe a couple of bombardiers and a couple of soldiers as well. We had, in the case of the sound ranging, what's called a cross-base. So, the microphones were laid out 1,500 to 2,000 metres apart. That formed a pair. 

With the ability to have seven microphones on the ground, we could actually form a cross, like that, with the microphones. That gave us 360 degrees coverage of our area. What sort of range? Look, it depended basically on how loud an explosion the primary – that is, the firing of the weapon – created when we were being engaged. So, in the case of mortars, which had a relatively low explosion when they went off, but have a fairly short range capability, [that range] may be out to eight kilometres. 

In the case of artillery – which in Phuoc Toy province the enemy did not have – we could probably range out to twenty kilometres. In the case of rockets, which are quite a different situation because they are supersonic as opposed to subsonic, [it was] again probably about twenty kilometres. But they themselves presented a challenge because they were supersonic as opposed to subsonic. 

At this point, I might mention that we did have success in locating enemy rockets. They only occasionally fired those at Nui Dat, and I'll just explain why it was complex in the case of the enemy firing rockets. Because they were supersonic, the trace that we got of sound arriving at the microphones was initially of the rockets in flight. 

And then, if you traced along that line, the sound of the primary – the ignition of the rocket motor – could be seen as a very small blip, because it's not so much an explosion as the start-up of a motor. So, you had to be very alert as to where that might be and pick that same blip up on the other microphones in order to be able to determine the sound differential, the time differential for the sound arriving, and therefore the direction in which the sound might be coming for that pair of microphones and the other pair and the other pair – there being three pairs when you've got a cross base. 

As opposed to six pairs when you've got a straight line. On one occasion, we did pick up where they were firing from. Fortunately, the impact was only in our big rubbish tip and that didn't cause too much disruption. But what was very curious, and what was very interesting at the time, was the way that the South Vietnamese Viet Cong – we don't know whether it was them or the North Vietnamese Army, probably the former – the way they fired those rockets. 

They were very aware that we had a capability of determining where they might be firing from. It wasn't in their interest to hang around at that firing position because we would subsequently engage that firing position with our artillery. Obviously, the quicker we could do so, the more likely we would be able to suppress any further fire or indeed create some injuries and casualties in the enemy's forces.

Meteorological support

One of the capabilities that the Americans co-located with us [had] was that of providing meteorological support to our artillery. It's important that artillery have that support because the nature of wind, its velocity, the air temperature, the air humidity, and air pressure can all have an effect on the point at which rounds are directed to fall. 

Obviously, a following wind on artillery will have the same effect as you throwing a feather into the wind: the rounds will carry further. In a headwind, they'll fall short. In a crosswind, they'll fall to the left or to the right. And it's from the degree of that, as those rounds travel through the atmosphere, that you can see the variable effect. So, the Americans provided meteorological support to us. 

They did that by sending up radiosondes attached to a hydrogen-filled balloon and they would track those balloons. The radiosondes would send back information on air pressure, temperature, humidity, and tracking of the balloon would give you the wind direction and speed. Now, those radiosondes, when the balloon finally enlarged to the point of bursting, would descend to the ground. 

The radiosondes had a number of circuit boards on which were a series of lines which the barometer would cross to send the difference in height. Now, those lines were very closely-spaced, almost touching each other, and very cleverly the Vietcong gathered up some of those radiosondes after they had fallen to the ground. 

They would expose the printed circuit boards, connect batteries to them, and when the dew descended in the morning on those printed circuit boards they would short out. That allowed the battery to then ignite the rocket. So, they pre-positioned the rockets, connecting them up to these exposed radiosondes and batteries, and then presumably left that area and allowed the rockets to fire on a fairly random basis – obviously without them necessarily being exposed to our counter battery fire. That was, for us, quite a revelation. We were very impressed with the way they utilised our technology, in a sense, to get back at us.

Indirect fire

There wasn't in 1969 that much enemy activity with regard to indirect fire. It was very difficult for them to bring those sorts of resources into Phuoc Toy province, because we, on the ground, were particularly active with regard to patrolling, to attending to the information that we had gathered as to where the enemy might be conducting or moving its forces. 

We would respond very readily to that as a form of denying them the freedom of movement that they wanted to achieve. And, because they had that limited ability to move freely, it made it difficult for them to bring mortars to bear against us, to bring rockets to bear against us, impossible for them to bring artillery to bear against us (because of the size of the equipment required), and very difficult for them to bring the necessary ammunition into the province. 

We had a degree of surveillance on what might occur at night. The Americans had overflights at night of aircraft that actually sniffed the atmosphere for the aromas and emissions that people on the ground – indeed, animals as well – might emit into the atmosphere. We just called them sniffers, I think. And, if they picked up a scent at night in their overflight, they would call into our headquarters because we essentially controlled the province of Nui Dat, militarily, and we would bring indirect fire onto those from our guns. So that made it difficult for them at night. Not impossible.

Difficulties involved in providing survey support

The area where we operated in was very heavily covered in jungle – particularly during the wet season. The contrast between the wet and the dry season there was very dramatic. You could see further, much further, with a naked eye if you were on the ground in the dry season because many of the plants had lost their leaves, they had adapted to that environment, they were waiting for the wet to arrive before they put on new growth. 

In the wet season, it was thick, it was difficult to see, and, for surveyors in those days, it was very critical for you to be able to see as far as you possibly could to use such things as theodolites and another means of providing survey support. I mentioned earlier that we Australians provided all of the survey support in the province. 

Prior to my arrival there, the Survey Corps – which are the Professional Surveyors, who provide, if you like, the basic grid in an area of operations by putting down accurately surveyed points at quite some distance apart from each other (we might be talking about 40 or 50 kilometres apart, but nevertheless very accurately surveyed). We would utilise whatever points we could find. 

Some of them were ones that the Americans might have provided in the past, that the French, prior to the Americans, had provided. We had some old data. Finding these things was very difficult. They often had been destroyed or damaged or removed in the course of the conflict. Some of the componentry that was used to mark these points – in particular, upturned 105 millimetre cartridge cases, set in concrete – the percussion point at the back of that cartridge case being the actual point that was establishing the coordinates, would be souvenired by the locals because of the brass content and so you'd lose the marked point that you might have spent many hours in terms of trying to establish its location and its fixation on the ground. 

To overcome the problem of providing accurate information to the guns that might, for example, have deployed into a little clearing in the jungle, by air – which clearing may well not have been marked on a map – but nevertheless, our task being to tell them exactly where they were. When I say "exactly", we're not talking about within points of a metre. 

That wasn't necessary in the case of artillery. It was necessary, however, to provide them with an accurate point on the Earth's surface where they were located – that is, the centre of the battery to within what we call the ‘probable area', of ten metres. That's a technical term and it indicates a certain degree of confidence in the accuracy of that information. 

So, if people are aware of basic things like grid references, where you might use a six figure number to indicate your place on the ground, that's only indicating your position to an accuracy of 100 metres. We tried to go down to the metre. So, we might express the accuracy of a point down to dot-dot-dot point-something; for a Eastings dot-dot-dot point-something; for Northings the same. 

That didn't mean it was exactly to that point, but it might have had a probable area of ten metres. So, that was sufficient for the guns to be able to say with confidence, That's where they were. Now, when a battery deploys like that one that I just described, deploying into a clearing in the middle of the jungle, it was up to the gun position officer who was the one running the guns at that stage, on the ground – as opposed to the forward observers who are out with the infantry elsewhere – to make his own judgment as to where he was.

Control and observation points

We had, as I mentioned, a number of control points around Phuc Toy province. Obviously, you placed those points as high as possible so they've got observation to other areas – tops of mountains and things are ideal. Outside of the province, to the north, we had this huge mountain titled Nui Tian Shan. Now, Nui Tian Shan was actually occupied by Americans at the very top. 

They used it as a communications relay facility. So they had all sorts of microwave antennae, other vertical and horizontal antennae, probably about 150 people sitting right up the top of what was all an old French hunting lodge. Now, that didn't mean that there was a lodge there with a nice accommodation or anything – nothing to that effect. If there had been a lodge, it had long since gone. 

We utilised that place fairly often because it had observation over much of the north of Phuc Toy province and, with the techniques that we had available to us – triangulation and trilateral action, traversing, things like that – we could often provide accurate coordinates to guns that might have deployed in the north of the province. The only proviso there was the particular distance measuring equipment which we had was microwave-based. 

The Americans had communication facilities on the top of that mountain that were microwave-based. We therefore experienced quite a degree of interference and it was a significant challenge to be able to accurately measure the distance that we needed to do between (say) Nui Tian Shan and a deployed battery on the ground as much as 50 kilometres away.

The use of helicopters for surveying

At night, we would use flares. So, we would deploy a flare – a fairly bright flare, I might add, one that was normally dropped from an aircraft. We would call them "spooky flares". We would deploy a flare, and you could see that fairly clearly through the theodolite to make your accurate measurement of angle. During the day, we would use mirrors and reflect the sun's light. 

So, you'd see a series of flashes when you were observing through the theodolite. Now, that may have worked in many cases in the north part of the province. In the southern part of the province, Nui Tian Shan wasn't much use to us. There were other mountains, but they were occupied more by the Vietcong than they were by us. 

We didn't develop it, but we utilised for the first time a technique that I had learned about, during my training, prior to going to Vietnam. This involved the use of a helicopter. So, one of the requirements was for us to establish a number of survey control points at, say, intervals of every five kilometres along areas that we had ready access to, which might be highways or main roads or something like that. 

We'd accurately survey these points – and by that I mean we knew exactly where they were on the Earth's surface. We also knew from that point the accurate location of north – very accurately, to within minutes or even within seconds of arc. That was important if you wanted to then carry survey information from that point onwards, into the jungle, to find out where our artillery might be. 

We had then the problem of a battery deploying into a jungle but we had, maybe thirty kilometres away, this series of points, hopefully in a rough line along the highway. This technique involved the helicopter flying midway between the deployed battery and this line of points, at an altitude where it could be easily observed from both the battery position and from the surveyed control points and, if possible, trying to get the pilot to hover this helicopter in mid-air, such that it could be observed by theodolite simultaneously by all of those people deployed. 

We're talking about people with maybe five points that we knew were being occupied, along the highway, and one point being occupied, obviously, at the artillery position. I would be in the helicopter controlling the thing and would say: "Right, this is Hover position 1." This is over the radio, of course. "Five, four, three, two, one. Up!" And, at the "Up!" they were to take their hands off the instrument, take the measurement, and we would subsequently calculate from our known position a series of intersections and we would get the location of the helicopter in mid-air at that point of time. 

And, if we ran a number of lines with the helicopter midway between the battery and our known positions, we might have as many as twenty points in mid-air, which we knew where they were located. At the same time, those points were being observed by the people on the ground at the battery. By a different method, re-section, you could determine where the battery was located. 

We would end up with a bunch of answers – because when someone is laying with a theodolite on the rotor shaft or the landing life of the helicopter, depending on which one we chose to use, if he's not particularly accurate in the way he's laid on that, and is off by a second or two of arc, then you'll get a difference in the answer in terms of that location of helicopter space. 

With a bunch of answers, though, you could rule out the ones that were out of the general zone, and then make a calculated average of the others and end up pretty accurately with the location of that battery in that clearing on the ground. I might have mentioned earlier that that clearing might not have been marked on a map. 

There were at least two occasions where that sort of deployment had occurred, the gun position officer had made a judgment as to where he was, and when he subsequently had to provide the support that was called by forward observers, they were rather amazed to find that the round wasn't falling in front of them but behind or something like that! 

And that is because the poor old gun position officer, like anyone who was trying to read a map where there was no clearing marked, in the middle of a jungle – which just was a sea of green – may have made a mistake. A genuine mistake, which anyone could make under those circumstances. It was the nature of our survey that could rescue us from that situation. To make a mistake like that is very, very dangerous because obviously it compromises the safety of our own troops in terms of friendly fire.

Job Satisfaction

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in South Vietnam, militarily or professionally, because it was an opportunity to put into practice those things which I had learned in the course of my training at Duntroon, in a general sense, but more particularly, more technically, the various courses I'd attended at the School of Artillery. 

There's nothing more satisfying than achieving something in difficult circumstances that others want from you. The others on the ground, the artillery people, they had their own function to perform – to deliver fire in the required place at the required time and at the required intensity. I daresay, understandably, they didn't give much thought to how we provided to them very accurate information that they needed to be able to perform their job. 

That didn't bother me. I just got a lot of satisfaction – and I think my soldiers did, too – out of being faced with a difficult problem. What was the best possible technique to use in the most appropriate timeframe? And, by "appropriate timeframe", I mean as soon as possible! Now, you can do things extremely quickly in artillery survey, but the accuracy gets compromised. It's a trade-off, all the time.

Deficient American survey methods

I was posted to the United States to their school of artillery as an exchange instructor, in particular with Artillery Survey. I was dumbfounded there to find that they – and I had had a strong inkling of this when I was in Vietnam – were very surprisingly backwards, compared with ourselves. They had no electronic distance measuring equipment. 

They were using logarithmic tables to do their calculations. We used to use logarithmic tables, but we had moved on from logarithmic tables to mechanical calculators and, after Vietnam, we'd moved to electronic calculators. In the United States, when I was there as an exchange instructor, they were still using logarithms. 

They had no electronic measuring equipment, they had no – specific to artillery survey – training manuals produced at all. They used commercial, professional surveyor's guides – the ones that you would use when doing a survey to provide the coordinates of the boundary of your house, for example, in Canberra or Sydney or wherever – and the laborious techniques [you would use] where time was not of the essence, where accuracy was everything. 

In Vietnam, I was amazed to come across Americans who might sometimes be trying to provide their own survey to a deployment that they'd undertaken – one that they hadn't notified us of, I might add – and they were trying to measure distances through the jungle with tape measures, whereas we could have provided that information with our electronic distance measuring equipment, providing we deployed it in appropriate places, at a twentieth of the time – or even faster than that. Just amazing. 

They had no notion that you could measure a distance of up to 50 kilometres, within half an hour, with a very high degree of accuracy, if you had the right equipment. They'd never seen that sort of equipment before. Now, I daresay things have changed significantly. Indeed, obviously they have, what with GPS. Nowadays, batteries go into the field, individual guns have their own GPS system, and they can determine very accurately where they are on the earth's surface within minutes. That has transformed artillery survey. Back in those days, it was an essential requirement that we did it in a rather more manual way.

Duty officer with Artillery Tactical HQ

A third function that I performed – early, on anyway, until I found the workload was just too much – was at night. I had to act as duty officer in what was known as Artillery Tac (or Artillery Tactical Headquarters), which was co-located with the taskforce headquarters. That function was basically to: provide the artillery support, both in terms of what the enemy might be using – in the way of artillery – and engaging that artillery with our own guns; and provide that support to deployed forces of infantry and armour that we might have on the ground, or indeed Americans with their sniffer aircraft or any other form of intelligence as to where the enemy might be. 

That required me to be on duty for six hours a night, and I found myself every three nights out of four on duty for six hours a night – as well as having the day job of providing artillery support. That didn't add up very well at all. I think it was an oversight on the part of others. So, we had that changed.

A tight team and rewarding experience

The guys that I had working for me in Vietnam were, for the most part, national servicemen. They were schoolteachers, they were accountants. When they enlisted, of course, their background was checked by the Army, and thought was given as to what would be an appropriate area for them to be employed in for their eighteen months of service with the military – or was it two years? I can't recall exactly. 

I had a bunch of great guys. Really, really great. Intelligent, smart people who wanted to do the job, who really enjoyed their own camaraderie. They got on well with each other, they understood why they were there and the particular functions they had to perform. It's just heartening to see how well that group of people have stayed together subsequently. 

They get together every year and go on an Anzac Day march in different locations around Australia. They see it as a means of socially mixing and renewing their bonds. Their wives are a part of that group as well and sometimes I take part in it – particularly if it's here in Canberra. It's a very heart-warming thing to see that degree of bonding that occurs in situations like that. 

Only on one or two occasions were my guys ever exposed to significant risk in terms of actual activity occurring on the part of the enemy. For the most part, we all knew there was a threat lurking in the background, but we got on with the job. There was never any disruption in terms of people not wanting to do their job, or expressing concern about whether this was too risky or anything like that. 

They were just very happy to get on and do the job. I think full marks to their wonderful attitude with regard to that. … I found it very interesting that you could be performing a very technical function, in what was essentially a very physical, combative environment, and get a high degree of satisfaction out of that. I found it very rewarding. 

The notion of plodding around in the jungle, running the risk of someone blowing your head off at any moment, or stepping on a mine – that must have been a very daunting experience for the infantry, in particular. We weren't quite as exposed to that situation. Although, of course, we did travel on those very risky roads from time to time. None of our guys experienced any injury associated with enemy action at all. 

Nevertheless, it was always there, that risk. I think that, because these guys were schoolteachers and professional people, they found the mental challenge of doing what we were doing very interesting and rewarding as well.

Further American deficiencies

I mentioned that, at Nui Tian Shan, where these Americans were deployed with their communication facility. As I say, we sometimes had to go up there and try and provide survey from that point to somewhere else. Obviously, that place was run by American officers. At night, I "hootchie'd" up with them – and that's just an expression of spending the night in their environment. 

I was amazed to see that these guys, these officers, lived in their own very heavily sandbagged bunker, with double-doors, steel doors, which they locked at night. They didn't do so because of the risk of enemy attack; they had that area so well covered with drums of napalm deployed around the outside of the perimeter and machine guns and loads of tracer pointing at them. 

There's no way that the Vietcong or the North Vietnamese army could have attacked that and achieved anything. They were so heavily protected, these officers, because of the risk that they saw of being "fragged" by their own men. That was such a remote location, on the top of this hill, that the Americans – so these officers advised me – decided that it was a good place to send officers who had misbehaved, in the past, as a form of punishment. 

It was very remote, had no access to any facilities, nowhere could they go – into town, for instance. They were stuck on the top of this huge mountain in the middle of virtually nowhere. Because of the nature of those miscreants, if I can use that expression, they felt they really had to protect themselves as they ran a serious risk of being killed or injured by their own people. 

We never experienced anything like that in our military. That, for me, was an eye-opener. When I subsequently served in the United States, I started to understand why that would be the case. There wasn't the degree of professionalism that I would have expected, there wasn't the degree of respect within the military for officers that I would have expected, and there wasn't the rapport that was established, in terms of what a leader can do, in taking his troops through a learning and performance-based activity that makes them feel that they are a very valuable and wanted part of a team. 

It just didn't seem to exist. I was amazed to see, in the United States, that someone who went into Artillery Surveys as a soldier was taught one thing: he was taught either how to operate a theodolite, or how to measure a distance with a tape. The guy measuring the distance with a tape had no idea how to use a theodolite. The guy using the theodolite had no idea how to use a tape measure. 

He didn't know how to calculate any of this stuff. This was done by someone who did the computing. He had no idea how to use a radio – that was done by someone who used a radio. Our guys were trained in everything. If someone got injured, or had to be evacuated, there was another guy there who knew how to do the job and did it on a regular basis. It was dumbfounding, quite frankly. Again, maybe that's changed. But it was a real eye-opener for a junior officer to see the difference in another nation's military, in terms of that approach.

They have a huge military industrial complex behind them. Because I was subsequently in procurement, in the latter stages of my service in the army, we would often of necessity be buying American equipment because it was very good stuff and they were prepared to sell it to us. But, for a lot of that equipment, the requirement for it and the development for it had occurred as a result of the military industrial complex doing so, not of the military research agencies necessarily coming up with these answers. 

So, they had a huge commercial backing, if you like – of people seeing great opportunities to make a profit out of developing very special capabilities, be they weapons systems or supporting systems like ours (in the case of Survey) that could achieve things. So, now, they've clearly got a technological superiority. 

But it was interesting to see how they did not utilise, at the time of Vietnam, anyway, in the area that I worked in, the technology that was available in the world. They were just going with a blindfold, or [saying], "This is the way we've always done it, this is the way we're going to continue to do it." They needed to be pushed and prodded to adopt things like electronic distance measuring equipment, and electronic calculators, and stuff like that, in order to be able to do the job much faster and therefore much more appropriately for the battlefield. 

Now, of course, we're very reliant on American technology. I daresay I think when we do get our hands on that technology, I think we use it much more professionally because the degree of training that we give to our people is clearly higher. I was involved in the training environment in the United States for two years, and I could see it for myself. The guys that we trained came out with a far better knowledge and understanding and ability and team spirit and the like than any of the Americans that I saw.

Last days in Vietnam

I was looking forward to getting back, yes, because after a while it started to become rather more routine in the sense of, Here's yet another deployment of a gun battery, another problem to confront that's not too dissimilar from a previous problem. Out we go again. Blah, blah, blah. Yes – but not to the point where I was checking off on a calendar. I didn't feel that much of a pull to go back or indeed a push, if you like. 

Now, I could well understand that, in the case of people who are out in the field and expected to be confronting the enemy at any minute. I lost my two best friends from Duntroon in Vietnam – the only two in my class who were killed there. This is fairly emotional for me because they were both very decent people and I feel they didn't deserve to die. They certainly didn't. 

The second one who passed away was in what you've just described – in that situation. He was desperate to get back – so, I subsequently hear. He was killed on the last day of his last operation, and he had a premonition that that was going to happen. He prevailed on his leadership, those above him, to allow him to not go out in the field for that particular operation. But that representation didn't work for him and he was required to go out in the field. And, on the last day, he trod on a mine and he was killed. 

One of our own mines – or an American mine that had been redeployed by the Vietcong. We'd made a mistake, early on, prior to my arrival. Someone leading the task force was fighting the last war, and that person felt it appropriate to deploy a minefield to our south running along a long length. Now, one of the principles of a minefield is they must be covered by fire. 

You must observe the things, because a minefield not covered by fire – that is observation and the ability to bring fire down on it – is next to useless. People can go in, lift the mines, and either go through the minefield, or use those mines for other purposes. And that's exactly what the Vietcong were doing. 

They got thousands of mines from this minefield, none of which was being observed or was able to have fire brought upon it, and they deployed those mines to great effect to kill our own troops. Almost a criminal act on the part of our leadership at the time. So, no, I wasn't counting off on the days. I didn't have a calendar on the wall. I was vaguely aware that I was going to be heading back at such-and-such a time. I didn't find out until a few days before I left about the actual day that I was leaving. 

It all depends on the flights that are going at the time. It turned out it was 365 days on the knocker. No. I guess that's the nature of that sort of job that I had, and perhaps the feeling of belonging as part of a team that had developed in the environment I was working in. For others, it could well have been different.

Coming home: A flat experience

Coming home was a very flat experience. An extraordinarily flat experience. At the time, prior to Vietnam, I had met a girl. She's my wife, and we've been living together ever since. I had first seen a photograph of her – oddly enough, quite coincidentally – in one of my classmate's rooms while I was at Duntroon. 

Pretty impressed, I have to say! Subsequently, after leaving Duntroon and [at my] first posting to Holsworthy, there was a need to have a partner at a formal dinner in the officers' mess. I'd only just arrived in the unit, then, and I didn't know Holsworthy. I didn't know anyone who lived in the area. So, I asked the friend: "Any suggestions?" He said, "Oh, I've got this friend who's got a cousin. I'll give you her phone number." 

It went from there. So, we went out for a while. While I was in Vietnam, she was travelling around Europe. She actually took a ship up to the east coast of the USSR, took the Trans-Siberian across, and travelled across Europe for a year while I was in Vietnam. We communicated for the duration quite frequently. I thought she would be back at the airport when I arrived, but she wasn't. 

That was somewhat disappointing. There was no welcome home ceremony or anything like that. You just got off the plane. My parents were there. That was it. Not only did I feel flat for that reason, but professionally I felt quite flat because I had been doing what I'd been trained to do in Vietnam, and now I came back to go on another course at the school of artillery. 

This was more relating to guns than the provision of services to the guns. I thought: This is all Mickey Mouse stuff. I've just come from the real environment, and here they are trying to tell me what it's like in Vietnam. The sense of purpose had really almost disappeared. I didn't have a focus, a name, at that stage. I couldn't see what I was going to do in the future that was going to give me the same degree of satisfaction or meaning in life than what I'd been doing. 

However, I ended up getting over that. Nevertheless, I didn't give any thought to the fact that there was no great welcome ceremony or anything like that. In fact, I thought, when that was subsequently introduced, that it was a bit of a: Well, we should have done this. This is an afterthought. The whole thing struck me as a bit of an artifice. I didn't take part in the homecoming parade which happened – I don't know – was it a year or two years later? I just don't know. I just wasn't really interested in that.

The importance of Anzac Day

Remembrance Day doesn't mean so much to me. Anzac Day does. Anzac Day means a fair bit to me because, as I say, I lost two very close friends in Vietnam. Anzac Day also means quite a bit to me partly because I live just a few metres – literally – from Anzac Parade. So, I take part when I can, when they're actually running it, COVID permitting, in the Anzac Day march. 

I've certainly attended a couple of the dawn ceremonies as well. When you hear the cockatoos screeching up on the eucalypt trees you certainly know you're home. Yes, it does. But I'm not overwhelmed by it, like some might be. I don't therefore go off to a pub afterwards and that sort of thing. I see it as an opportunity to march, to catch up with a few friends during the march, but I see my classmates from Duntroon, who live here in Canberra, very regularly. 

Some of them every fortnight and all of them, including others that are a little bit beyond my particular class, every six weeks. We get together and we discuss books and we go to movies and stuff like that, go out to dinner and what have you. So, that becomes a way of sharing experiences and the like. I don't have much interaction with DVA, as such. 

I'm very grateful for the gold card. When I turned seventy, suddenly the gold card became fairly important! So, they picked the right sort of time to start having gold cards available to people – from my experience, anyway. I don't have any other interaction with DVA. I'm very grateful for the services it provides and I believe it's doing a very good job. I don't have any regrets or gripes in regard to that at all. 

But Anzac Day? That will always mean something to me. My father marched on Anzac Day, leading the contingent of the 1st Parachute Battalion – of which there's probably hardly anyone, if anyone at all, left. He's passed away. I will certainly go to Anzac Day March if the guys from my detachment in Vietnam happen to be marching, here in Canberra.

The military as a worthwhile career

Would I recommend a career in the military to someone? Yes, I would. Particularly if you undergo officer training, and you're placed in a management position where it is essential to have a really well-oiled and operating team, that feels that they're part of a team, and are rewarded as being part of a team – in terms of what they achieve and having their contribution recognised regularly. 

I think it's very difficult to replace that in any other scenario. I think that's been one of the things I've really benefited from. Did I encourage either of my two sons to go into the military? No, I didn't. And that's partly because they'd never expressed an interest in doing so. Maybe they were put off by the fact that we moved all the time! It was fourteen moves in the time that I was in the military, so that works out at around every eighteen or twenty months. They also had other skillsets and interests which I was very happy to nurture, and indeed they've gone on, on their own tracks. 

They don't regret the way they've gone. Interestingly, though, a number of my classmates have had their offspring go into the military. So, it's probably a genetic thing, in that sense. The bottom line is that I would thoroughly recommend a career in the military for those that are suited to it. It's a great thing.


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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Andrew Overall's veteran story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 22 June 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/oral-histories/andrew-overalls-veteran-story
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